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One could call the Saturday slate the snow games. Both playoff matchups are projected to be near or below freezing with a good chance of having a white field instead of a green one.
There’s no question that the deeper we go into the playoffs, the healthier the teams are. However, the weather, injuries and even how weather affects injuries will likely be a factor.
Rams with more injury/health concerns
All season, the Rams have been consistently the healthier squad. Not true this week against the Packers.
Jared Goff will be the starting quarterback, but he won’t be 100 percent. His thumb is not unstable, but his motion is restricted which could affect his grip, especially in the cold. The reported three temporary pins won’t help as metal certainly gets colder and causes more symptoms in poor weather, making the thumb stiffer. Don’t be surprised to see Goff don a glove, but his recent performances at freezing or below have not been great, even with a healthy thumb.
His last two games in such cold have him a combined 34-for-72 passing (47 percent) for 381 yards with zero touchdowns and five interceptions. I get that both Goff and Aaron Rodgers are California guys, but Rodgers is now in his 15th season in the cold and has performed well in snow.
As expected, Goff’s backup will not be John Wolford (neck) but Blake Bortles. Cooper Kupp should play with a knee bursitis, but he has missed practice this week. Cam Akers is good to go, but not Darrell Henderson.
The key will be the defensive line. The Rams’ Aaron Donald hasn’t practiced but is expected to play with a rib block injection. I feel he will be effective.
The Achilles heel of the otherwise healthy Packers is their offensive line against the Rams’ top D-line. Can Green Bay overcome the loss of left tackle David Bakhtiari (ACL)? The Packers had a brilliant plan to avoid shuffling the line by adding Jared Veldheer of the Colts, but Veldheer’s positive COVID test may keep him sidelined after all, unless it can be shown to be a false positive. Even then, he will have lost crucial practices with his new team.
Overall, the Packers are the healthier side, and I would lean towards laying the 6.5 points. I think the Packers will score, despite a stout Rams defense. However, I have concerns about the Rams’ offense in the cold, so the total is up in the air.
BILLS AND RAVENS HEALTHY
This is the battle of the two healthiest teams remaining.
The Ravens get healthy at the right time. Marcus Peters should play through his back issue, having just returned from a calf injury. Calais Campbell is over his calf issue, and Matthew Judon will not let a non-COVID illness get in his way. Left tackle Ronnie Stanley is the main loss, and the Ravens have adjusted to it.
The Bills are equally healthy. Their main loss is running back Zack Moss, who has a high ankle sprain. Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley are not even on the injury report for the game.
An interesting footnote is that Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has never played in snow. I don’t anticipate that he will have any issue. His speed will probably be blunted by the conditions, but so will the defenders’ ability to react to his cuts.
Based on injuries and player health, this game is a coin flip. I am going to root for and pick the Bills, as I happen to have more friends on that side of the ball. This has the feel of a very close and high-scoring contest.
The Sunday games are already posted at profootballdoc.com. Follow along at this site on game day for the latest information on injuries and potential in-game or halftime actionable information.